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Adler Planetarium Free Days + Other Ways to Save

Updated: May 10, 2024
 By Mel

The first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, now a National Historic Landmark, lies here in Chicago. It's the Adler Planetarium.

I and many fellow tour guides, many of us long time residents of the city, have fond memories from childhood of visiting this copper domed "sky theatre."

Recent renovations have meant the addition of more rooms, a techology upgrade, and a replacement of its iconic dome.

There's plenty to see and do there, and its the perfect place for a date night.

If you'd like to visit the Adler, this post will help you plan your visit, including how best to get there.

It will also tell you how to get cheap or even free tickets, discuss many of the exhibits you'll find there, and even offer some tips and information from residents and fellow travelers.

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Adler Planetarium!


PLAN YOUR VISIT

This section will help you plan your visit including how to get there, when to go, and how long you should expect to stay.


How to Get There

The Adler Planetarium is located at 1300 S Lakeshore Drive at the Museum Campus

Adler Planetarium Map

We recommend using this Google Maps link for directions to the museum.

While the Adler is within reasonable walking distance from most downtown hotels and popular attractions, there are public transportation and parking options to save time and energy. 

Bus

  • #146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express/Museum Campus
  • #130 Museum Campus (mid-May through Labor Day)

Train

  • Exit the Roosevelt stop (Red, Orange, Green lines) and transfer to bus #146 at State Street and Roosevelt Road.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus


Best Times to Visit

The museum is most popular mid-day on Saturdays and Sundays, so we suggest trying to arrive as they open on weekends or before noon on a weekday.

Hours

  • Monday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday | 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday and Thursday | closed from October 3rd, 2023 - May 23rd, 2024 for school field trips*
  • Wednesday | 4:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas | closed

*The museum will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays November 20th-22nd, November 24th, December 22-24, December 26-January 15th, and March 22nd-April 8th.


How long should I stay?

In general, visitors stay at the planetarium for 2.5 to 3 hours. 


Is there somewhere to eat at the Planetarium?

Yes. The Cosmic Cafe offers soups, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, beverages, and desserts. These can be eaten while looking on one of the best views of the Chicago skyline in the city.

Hours:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday | 10:30 am - 2:30 pm
  • Wednesday | 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Saturday and Sunday | 10:30 am - 3:15 pm

Is there a gift shop?

Yes! The Space Shop has educational games and toys, books, souvenirs, telescopes, clothing and much more.

You can also visit it online.


Are other attractions close to the Planetarium?

Yes! Other museums at the Museum Campus include the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. The Art Institute Chicago is also less than 2 miles away. 


TICKETS

This section will give you an overview of ticket types and ticket prices. There are a few options in addition to general admission.

Any free entry option is limited to general admission and we have listed them just below the ticket descriptions.

TIP: To get savings of up to 50%, check out the attraction passes below. 


General Admission 

This gives you access to all permanent exhibitions and collections. 


Museum Entry + 1 

This gives you access to all exhibitions and collections plus one sky show ticket of your choice.


Museum Entry +2

This gives you access to all exhibitions and collections plus two sky show tickets of your choice.


Star Pass | All-Access Pass 

This gives you access to all exhibitions and collections with unlimited access to your choice of shows.

PRO TIP: The exhibits are awesome, but kids really love the Adler shows! You can see one, two, or all of them with various ticket levels.  


Cheaper Tickets for Chicago Residents

Chicago residents, students, and seniors are also eligible for $2 off ($3 for kids) at any time, every day of the week

Residents may upgrade to Museum Engry + 2 Pass and gain entry to any of the sky shows at a less expensive price. Check the website for specific days


WAYS TO SAVE

This section includes the various deals available for Adler Planetarium tickets. Don't pay full price when you don't have to.


Tourist Attraction Savings Passes

General admission to the Adler Planetarium is included in all of Chicago's tourist passes.

These passes work by combining tickets to popular attractions and tours into one lower price, up to 55% off.

You can also save time by skipping the ticket line at select locations, which really can be a blessing in the summer.

In addition to the Adler Planetarium, here are a handful of the other popular attractions included with some passes:

If you want to learn more about attraction passes that can save you 50% on Chicago activities, check out our full post. 


Go City Chicago Explorer Pass

The Chicago Explorer Pass will give you admission to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 attractions at a savings of up to 40%.

The Adler Planetarium is included in the list of 32 eligible attractions. 

NOTE: If you would like the Adler's Star Pass you need only pay the difference when you arrive.


Chicago CityPASS

The CityPass booklet is a pre-packaged savings bundle that includes 5 popular tourist attractions at savings of 48%.

All you have to do is purchase the one ticket and make a few choices on the options they give you.

We have a full tourist attraction savings pass comparison on our blog.


Promo Sites

There are some websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial which offer concessionary rates on tickets for the Field Museum.

In addition to their already low prices, they also frequently offer promo codes to help you save an extra 10% - 20% off!


Museums for All

Families from anywhere in the US that are on state food assistance and have an EBT or LINK card, or a WIC ID, can receive a Museum Entry +1 Pass for up to 8 people for $1 each.

The passes can be upgraded to Museum Entry + 2 for an additional $5 per person.

The cards and IDs must be shown at the box office to receive the savings

Read more about Museums for All here.


FREE ACCESS

The Adler Planetarium offers free access to people of various professions, and sometimes for residents as well.

See if you are in one of these groups below.


Free Access for Military

Active duty US Military, National Guard, reserve, and veterans and their families can get up to five free museum passes with military ID. 


Free Admission for Teachers + Active Police + Active Firefighters

Illinois teachers (K-12) with ID enter free for general admission.


Free Museum Admission Days for Illinois Residents

Illinois residents with a valid state ID gain free access on Wednesday evenings from 4 pm - 10 pm.

On those days, the Museum Entry + 2 passes are available as an upgrade for a cheaper price.

These tickets must be purchased online, with a valid ID required at checkout to earn the savings.


EXHIBITS AT ADLER PLANETARIUM 

This section lists some of the fun exhibits available to interact with.

There are over 35,000 square feet to explore within the museum and it has one of the best views of the Chicago skyline!


Mission Moon 

Launch into space with Captain Lovell as you learn about the history of America’s space race, meeting the crew of Apollo 13 and touring the Gemini 12 spacecraft.

You can also launch a stomp rocket!


Our Solar System

Touching space rocks!? Enough said.

Feel fragments of the Moon and Mars, and get an up-close and personal view of meteorites while you learn the science behind their creation.


Community Design Lab 

You’re a scientist with your toolkit (marshmallows, popsicle sticks, bubble wrap, etc.) to problem solve, understand more about how the world works, and create space-exploring inventions!

The labs folks can take part in are:

  • PlayLab
  • Star Studio
  • Stargazers Hub
  • Red Rover Mars Activity Staton

The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time 

A history of the universe from the Big Bang right up until your visit!

This is the exhibit most people expect to see when they go to a world-renowned planetarium, and the Adler does not disappoint!


Planet Explorers 

A space-age, indoor playground! For children ages 3-8 years old. Kids can let their imagination soar as they climb, crawl, and play in this interactive jungle gym!


Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass

Examine the tools that first gave us a glimpse of the stars, from 1608 to the present day.

Marvel at the ingenuity of our fellow human beings’ inventions, including a colossal 22-foot-long antique!


Astronomy in Culture 

Explore the Medieval European and Middle Eastern history of stargazing.

The galaxy has fascinated everyone for centuries, and you’ll learn about the early theories in this exhibit that puts you in a replica medieval classroom!


What is a Planet?

Voted #1 in the British Society for the History of Science’s 2016 Exhibitions Competition, this exhibit teaches all ages what classifies an object as a planet as it travels among the stars.   


Others

The new exhibition, Chicago's Night Sky, features globes, star maps, interactive technology to make your own constellations, and more.

There is also an amazing Welcome Gallery with thousands of feet of aluminum tubing and fabric, lights, video presentations, and pop-up exhibits.

And there's a Chasing Exclipses exhibit that tells you why eclipses occur and about stories of eclipse sightings around the world.


TIPS FROM LOCALS AND TRAVELERS

While we try to cover everything in our post to make a your trip to a Chicago museum easier, there are surely questions you'll have that will apply only to you.

That's why the Free Tours By Foot Chicago Travel Tips page on Facebook comes in handy. You can ask direct questions there and one of our almost 22,000 members will often provide the answer!

Here are a few tips we've found:

  1. Is the Adler Planetarium worth visiting? Absolutely, yes, say many of our contributors, and it's close to other museums you might like to visit as well. There is also a question about tourist attraction passes as well. To read more about them, read our post about city passes here..

2. What are the top things to see in the city? The Adler, of course, but also a number of other places. These contributors also recommend some restaurants you might enjoy.

3. What are things to do in Chicago when it's cold out? This is the perfect time to visit the Adler and many other locations. Read what these folks say below.

4. Is public transportation easy to use in Chicago? Yes. You can check out our readers' suggestions and also check out our post about Chicago Public Transportation.

If you have questions of your own you want to post, or just want to check out what people are saying about Chicago, visit our Chicago Travel Tips page on Facebook.


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About The Author

Mel

Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!
Updated: May 10th, 2024
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